Call her auteur but call me sunset

by Jessica Fordham Kidd

the painter speaks

When she hired me, she said, make me weep,
make me step forward, make me lose my perspective.
So I painted her a classic — monument valley with the sun
a melting lozenge in the west. 
But I made it mine — red stars blinking through the purple sunset
and two huge moons just beginning to show.
What blue was left in the sky looked crisp enough to bite. My clouds 
grew shadows in the space between eye blinks.

If you could shrink yourself, I guarantee you could walk out among the strata
and go miles with the desert wind on your face.
Your audience will have red dust on their boots when they leave the theatre,
I told her.

She did step forward. She reached her hand at my canvas,
but didn't touch. She licked the tear as it curved toward her mouth.
And I was hired. Done. My soul sold to the great endeavor.

Matte painter walks gently between auteur and animator

When the wolf hatches and surveys its vast domain
I want the audience to feel alone
with the great, lost creature. I want them all
to feel as if they almost don't exist.
The rocky crags and spindly pines
should shimmer in moonlight
should be more real than the audience,
than the wolf, she told me.

And I heard the animator growl herself
at the idea that her wolf
would not be real.

I could make it walk out of the screen
and devour us all,
she murmured.

And I said, I can paint a world
more real than the viewers in their plush seats.

The artists conspire to consume one another

Matte painter:
When I saw her intent on the face of her possible protagonist,
I knew I wanted her in my landscape. I wanted her little clay feet
to trespass on my paths and make shadows across my meadows.

I wanted her to enter so fully into my scenes
that she would seem like a geologic feature.

I knew each rippling distant wave, each breeze-taunted branch
would be doubly wrought, doubly yearning
when her creatures posed before them.

With each stroke of my fine-haired brush,
I came closer to engulfing her, her little creatures
moving blink by blink across my colors.

The stop-motion animator:
He thought I didn't see him watching me,
but I think in three dimensions.
I can't concentrate only on what's in front.
The parts wouldn't match up.
The constructed muscles wouldn't work together.

He watched me, and I was as aware of him
as if he was one of my miniatures.
Instead of sculpting his rising chest,
I arched my back and heard him rustle
at my movement. He has no idea how quickly

my little heroes will conquer his valleys.

Jessica Fordham Kidd lives in Coker, Alabama and is the associate director of first-year writing at the University of Alabama. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Waccamaw, Sliver of Stone, and others. Other poems from this sequence about the stop-motion animator have appeared in Mirror Dance. Jessica's favorite fruit is an in-season, perfectly ripe nectarine. The kind so good she can ignore the stickiness and slurp right down to the pit.

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